Play Of The Game
Less than a month ago, the underhand flip became a source of consternation for Ohio football fans when Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden threw away a game against the Detroit Lions with a fourth-quarter toss that looked more like a shot-put throw than a football pass.
On Nov. 2 in West Lafayette, Braxton Miller showed Weeden how to do it, successfully underhanding a pass to Corey "Philly" Brown for the final touchdown of Ohio State's 28-point first-quarter outburst on the way to a 56-0 burying of Purdue.
The game was far from in doubt by the time Miller made the resourceful pitch to Brown, but it might have been the most memorable highlight from a game that included one team outgaining the other by more than 500 yards.
The touchdown came two plays after a Purdue fumble gave the Buckeyes great field position at the 21-yard line, and on the first play, Miller found Evan Spencer over the right side for a 19-yard gain.
The Buckeyes ran to the line, as they usually do in short-yardage situations, and dialed up a formation that included three receivers to the wide side of the field. Miller took the shotgun snap and rolled that way, but the sailing was less than smooth.
The goal appeared to be to hook up with Brown on a short out pattern along the goal line, but Purdue senior cornerback Ricardo Allen was able to stay close enough to Brown that the throw simply wasn't there.
So Miller just strung out the play to the left behind a block from running back Carlos Hyde. Finally, as he approached the sideline, Miller appeared as though he had a decision to make, but Allen made it for him.
Miller juked inside then back out to avoid the linebacker Hyde was engaged with, Sean Robinson, then approached the sideline. Almost out of real estate, Miller noticed Allen came forward in an attempt to sack him right at the same time Brown spun away from Allen's coverage, leaving enough of a gap to make a throw.
Just as Allen crossed the goal line, Miller jumped in the air off his right foot and made a backhand toss toward Brown, who was 5 yards deep in the end zone. The flip was far enough away from the rest of the play that only Brown could catch it, and he did just that while landing on the "B" in the "Boilermakers" font in the end zone.
Hidden Play Of The Game
Hyde's 42-yard run in the final minutes of the first half won't ever go down as one of the most memorable plays in the game – after all, it wasn't one of the eight touchdowns the Buckeyes scored – but it serves as the latest good sign for the senior tailback who is dead-set on finishing his career strong.
In the spring, Hyde spoke about how he wanted to add a home-run threat to his game, something that was missing a season ago when he finished just shy of 1,000 yards but did not have a 30-yard rush.
Then came Hyde's summer incident at a Columbus establishment and the ensuing three-game suspension, meaning he was just trying to make a few plays when he got back on the field in September. As a result, he didn't have any rushes of 30 or more yards through his first four games of the season.
But finally he broke out with a 39-yard scoring run vs. Penn State, and the 42-yard burst through a huge hole in the Purdue line served as Hyde's longest carry of the past two seasons.
What Worked Well
• Controlling the line of scrimmage: The stats paint a pretty stark picture of this game. Ohio State ran for 345 yards while Purdue finished with just 27, and Ohio State also had six sacks of Danny Etling and pressured him many other times. Every football game is won up front, and the Buckeyes had the edge here all day.
• Throwing to the tight end: Ohio State's offense has shown the ability to reward players who deserve it, and it was time for Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett to get some stats after performing well in blocking duties all season. OSU ran patterns to get each open at times, and at others, the Boilermakers simply didn't cover the big receiving Buckeyes, who finished with seven catches and a pair of scores.
• Winning the coin toss: This just goes to show how dominant the Buckeyes were on the day – they captured the coin toss and won just about every matchup from there. OSU won just about every category on the day it could win, holding massive edges in first downs, rushing yards, passing yards, and yards per play.
What Didn't Work
• Staying healthy: The last thing Ohio State needed in a game like this was to suffer any injuries, and they unfortunately had a few. Senior running back Jordan Hall did not play and was joined on the sidelines at times by offensive linemen Marcus Hall and Taylor Decker, defensive lineman Michael Bennett and linebacker Curtis Grant. The biggest worry is Decker, who suffered a sprained MCL, the same injury that has kept Hyde and Miller out for two-to-three weeks over the past two seasons.
The Bottom Line
• The game was over when … Ohio State cornerback Doran Grant returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown on the game's second play from scrimmage. The game was only 57 seconds old, but things never really got much better for the Boilermakers the rest of the afternoon.
• Game ball goes to … Heuerman. The junior tight end took advantage of some soft coverage from the Purdue defense and turned in a career-best performance of 116 yards on five receptions. It was the most yards by an Ohio State tight end in a game since John Frank totaled 123 during a losing effort against Michigan in 1983.
• Stat of the game … 640. Ohio State piled up 640 yards against Purdue to top the 600-yard mark in total offense for the fourth time this season. The Buckeyes had gained 600 or more yards in a game only nine times over the preceding 27 seasons.
Reviewing The Matchups
• Ohio State rush offense vs. Purdue rush defense: Ohio State's 8.0-yard average on rushes vs. Penn State was pretty good, but the Buckeyes upped that vs. Purdue, finishing with an 8.4-yard average on 41 tries. The stats before the game showed that Purdue would have trouble stopping the OSU run game, and that came true. The Buckeyes went pass-first throughout most of the first half but still finished with their fourth 300-yard rushing day of the season. EDGE: Ohio State
• Purdue rush offense vs. Ohio State rush defense: Purdue entered the game last in the Big Ten in rushes of 10 yards or more and mustered just two more against the Buckeyes. Overall, the Boilers finished with a 1.0-yard average on 27 carries. The run threat just wasn't there for the Boilermakers, one reason the Buckeyes were able to pin their ears back at times and get after Etling. EDGE: Ohio State
• Ohio State pass offense vs. Purdue pass defense: The Buckeyes took to the air early and often, and Miller again had an efficient day. Miller had completed 78.4 percent of his passes in the previous two games and upped that vs. Purdue, finishing at 82.6 percent. He distributed the ball with great efficiency throughout the game, and his weapons were there when he needed them. EDGE: Ohio State
• Purdue pass offense vs. Ohio State pass defense: There just wasn't much to be had for Etling, who made some high-quality throws to the sidelines – some of the toughest in the game to make – but was either under pressure or too slow in his reads throughout. Simply put, his 13-of-29 showing wasn't something to write home about. EDGE: Ohio State
• Special teams: One of the few downers for Ohio State on the day was a punt return touchdown by Brown that was negated by a penalty on Ezekiel Elliott, but the freshman atoned for that with a crushing blow on a kickoff return. Otherwise, not much more could be said about this realm. Drew Basil continued his school-record streak of extra points with his 17th of the past two games, but Purdue did average a net of 44.9 yards per punt. EDGE: Even
• Intangibles: Any indication that Purdue could repeat history and beat the Buckeyes in West Lafayette again went out the window with Grant's pick-six on the second play. The Purdue student section, which filled up as the game went on as the Boilermakers posted upset wins vs. OSU in 2009 and '11, was pretty much empty after halftime as there just wasn't much to cheer about on this day. EDGE: Ohio State
BSB's Mark Rea contributed to this story.